These Epic Hot Springs Adventures Are Worth the Hike

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Stunning photos of steaming hot springs in places like Iceland, Italy, and Turkey litter social media feeds. But you don’t need a passport or even a plane ticket to find geothermal pools. There are (literal) hot spots throughout the U.S. that’ve capitalized on pools heated by volcanic bedrock.

Spa resorts like Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa in New Mexico, the restored ghost town of Dunton Hot Springs Resort in Colorado, and the former gold miner’s resort at Chena Hot Springs in Alaska offer that natural experience with all kinds of luxury amenities.

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And if you’re the kind of traveler who prefers to work for your rewards, hot springs closer to home can be a one-two punch of adventure: the journey getting to a remote location and the joy of taking a dip in what’s essentially nature’s spa.

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Out in the wild, the privilege of soaking is (mostly) free—and it helps, of course, that the minerals in those springs like calcium, sodium bicarbonate, silica, and sulfur, come with their own recovery benefits. Research shows they can help everything from your skin to your mental state.

FYI: Most of these hot springs are clothing optional, so know that you may find other travelers really embracing that “one with nature” mentality at the end of your trek. Note that certain hot springs require permits, fees, and/or reservations; others are only accessible in certain months or seasons; and some can experience environmental changes that will prohibit visitors, like heavy snowfall and road closures. Read each destination’s website for status updates and warnings before you visit. Some of the waters can also infect visitors with bacteria, so take care to never submerge your head underwater.

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1. Deep Creek Hot Springs

San Bernardino County, California

Tucked alongside the Mojave River in Southern California’s San Bernardino mountains, you’ll find the hot tub-sized pools ranging from 96 to 102 degrees that make up the Deep Creek Hot Springs. To get there, you can either hike 6 miles east from Arrowhead Lake Road along the Pacific Crest Trail, or take the shorter 2.5-mile trail from the privately owned Bowen Ranch (heads up: there’s an entry fee). But don’t assume shorter equals easier; that way comes with a 900-foot descent you’ll have to climb back up on the way out.

Tom Ha / Shutterstock

2. Homestead Crater

Midway, Utah

One of the most unique thermal sites in the U.S., Homestead Crater’s hot springs are actually hidden within a 55-foot-tall, beehive-shaped limestone rock. The mineral-rich water is 65 feet deep and 400 feet wide, with temperatures hovering around 90 to 96 degrees year-round—which makes it the only warm-water scuba diving destination in the continental U.S. There’s a hole at the top for sunlight to pour in, but you’ll have to pass through a tunnel at ground level to reach the decks and soaking area.

Courtesy of Homestead Resort

3. Conundrum Hot Springs

Maroon Bells–Snowmass Wilderness, Colorado

It takes an 8.5-mile uphill hike to reach Colorado’s Conundrum Hot Springs, which sit at an elevation of 11,200 feet in the Maroon Bells–Snowmass Wilderness near Aspen. Once you get there, though, the natural pools provide both welcome reprieve and spectacular views of three of the state’s 14ers: Cathedral Peak, Conundrum Peak, and Castle Peak. This route through the Rocky Mountains can be treacherous, so the best time to visit is during July through September; even then, most people stay overnight (you’ll need a permit and a reservation), before making the descent.

Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock

4. Goldmyer Hot Springs

Cascade Mountains, Washington

Getting to Washington’s Goldmyer Hot Springs, about 60 miles east of Seattle, requires a 4.5-mile trek through the rugged Cascade Mountains backcountry. The terrain isn’t for inexperienced hikers, and the trail is prone to weather-induced closures. But access to the pools is capped at 20 people per day (by reservation only), which makes for a more intimate experience when you finally reach the tiered pools. The top one (at the entrance to an old mine shaft) boasts the hottest water at around 110 degrees; the others are a more manageable 104 degrees.

eastandwest / Shutterstock

5. Arizona Hot Springs

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, southeastern Nevada/northwestern Arizona 

About an hour southeast of Las Vegas, NV, the Arizona Hot Springs—filled by mineral waters gushing from fractures in the volcanic rock—are hidden inside a slot canyon near the Colorado River. It’s just over a 3-mile hike through the desert to reach the three 110-degree pools; the final leg includes a 20-foot climb up a metal ladder next to the waterfall. And if that’s not adventurous enough for you, you can actually float 4 miles down to the canyon from the Hoover Dam, or paddle 8 miles upriver from Willow Beach.

Beth Schroeder / Shutterstock

6. Granite Hot Springs Pool

Bridger Teton National Forest, Wyoming

You can drive the 11-mile access road to Wyoming’s Granite Hot Springs Pool, situated in Bridger Teton National Forest, about 30 miles southeast of Jackson, during the warmer months. But in the winter—when you actually want to soak in geothermal water—it’s only reachable via snowmobile, cross-country skis, dog sled, or fat bike. The main hot spring has been landscaped into a resort-like pool, but there’s also a smaller, more rustic pool at Granite Falls, a half-mile downstream, if that’s more your vibe.

melissamn / Shutterstock

7. Jordan Hot Springs

Pinos Altos, New Mexico

The 6-mile trek via Little Bear Canyon trail to reach Jordan Hot Springs near the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument in New Mexico wind through the plateau, with views of the Mogollon Range. The journey includes up to 15 river crossings through water that can reach up to your waist. The pool itself is nestled under pine and sycamore trees and filled by a warm waterfall cascading from the top of the slot canyon. It’s about 20 feet wide and three feet deep (plenty of room for soaking!), and reaches a warm 94 degrees.

Chris Hill / Shutterstock

8. Fifth Water Hot Springs

Diamond Fork Canyon, Utah

The pools at Fifth Water Hot Springs—aka Diamond Fork Hot Springs—in Diamond Fork Canyon, UT, are about an hour’s drive from Salt Lake City. The unique coloring—milky turquoise—make for extraordinary photos and an otherworldly experience. The 2.5-mile hike from the Rays Valley Trailhead has a 700-foot elevation gain (it’s gradual). This takes you to the main soaking pool, complete with a waterfall, but it’s worth walking a little farther to reach the second multitiered pool and waterfall if you really want that photo op. 

Double Bind Photography / Shutterstock

9. Dunanda Falls

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park is famous for Old Faithful, but with waters that reach 244 degrees, it’s not exactly hospitable. But the underlying magma that heats Old Faithful spreads 300 miles throughout the park, and you can bathe in several 110-degree pools under the 150-foot-high Dunanda Falls. To get there, you’ll hike 15 miles through pine forests and towering canyons from the Bechler trailhead; spend the night camping, then hit another geothermal pool 6 miles northeast at the Three Rivers Junction; it’s right off the main trail along the banks of the river.

Peter Bowman / Shutterstock

10. Mammoth Lakes Hot Springs

Mammoth Lakes, California

There’s no shortage of sprawling alpine views when you’re taking a dip in one of Mammoth Lakes’ hot springs. Better yet, there are a plethora of trail options. Visit Iva Bell Hot Springs via Fish Creek Trail (you need a permit) for sprawling granite vistas of Mammoth Mountain. If you’re an avid trekker, use the hot springs in this area as mini pitstops for thru-hiking. The Pacific Crest Trail and John Muir Trail are just a stone’s throw away. 

Johnny Adolphson / Shutterstock

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